Saturday, 19 May 2012

Taking the Mick

This week my wee girl turned one.  In accordance with The Guide to Things All Parents Should Do (And If You Don't Society Will Judge You), we held a first birthday party for her.  My sister showed some of the photos of the day to some of her work colleagues.  From these pictures, they apparently gained the impression that I was some kind of 50s home goddess.  When a picture of the cut cake appeared, one was heard to exclaim, "Oh now she's taking the mick".  It's the North of England you must understand...  So I am here to defend the charges laid at my door, and put to rest any idea that my life is organised, clean, or picture perfect.  You could just have a 2 minute conversation with my husband, but if that option isn't available to you, read on.

Some people say that when you have a child, your priorities change completely and suddenly your wants and needs take a back seat to that of your precious bundle.  Your existence revolves around providing for and nurturing this child.  Everything else fades into insignificance.
I think it's an indication of my level of narcissism that I *kind of* get this, but actually, it's mostly still about me.  I'm a bad person, clearly, but there you have it.  So when it came to the 1st Birthday Party, I figured it was really about what I wanted.  Oh yeah, and Phil.  I'm sure I have many years of Dora and Barbie and Justin Bieber parties to come (I can just see Phil dressing up for that last one) so this may be my one chance to throw a child's party that I like.

One of the biggest decisions was, of course, the cake.  The cake I decided on was so ridiculously over the top that it will henceforth be referred to as "THE CAKE".  I'm sure you've seen those cakes that have the rainbow coloured layers - a different colour on each tier.  I've always though those were pretty cool but maybe a little garish for what I was after.  I was trawling through Pinterest and came across a blog that had some beautiful baked goods, including a single colour ombre cake.  Somehow I thought this less garish (ha!).  Typically, I thought, "Oh I can probably throw that together", bookmarked it, and didn't bother to look too closely at how I was going to "throw it together" until about 2 days before the party.

I did actually test the colouring of the layers a couple of days prior to the party.  It was just as well I did as the mixture I made was disgusting (note: if you have a baking recipe involving oil, make sure not to use old frying oil.  Not so tasty...).  I felt it a significant achievement that I had actually bothered to prepare in some way that I didn't really think much farther ahead about making THE CAKE.

My parents arrived for the big occasion on the Thursday before the party.  In a further attempt to appear organised, I had written a timetable and list of jobs for what would need to be done before the party (I know, this sounds like I am REALLY organised so far, but writing the list doesn't mean anything happens.  It just allows me to feel smug about writing a list).  I announced to my mother that we would be spending Friday in a baking frenzy, making cupcakes, and of course, THE CAKE.  My Mum is a rock.  She is a "get the job done" kind of lady.  By "get the job done" I mean "finish of the job that Charlotte started but is now too bored to finish".  And yet she smiled sweetly (if a little tight at the corners of her mouth) and steeled herself for the day ahead.

Friday was lovely.  We baked, we talked, I licked the beater... just like being at home again.  By the end of the day, we had stacked the 5 layers of THE CAKE together with jam and icing between each layer, and put the base layer of butter cream icing all over the cake.  I'd also managed to ice the first layer of swirls onto THE CAKE.  It was at this stage, I should have realised that I was quite ill-equipped to ice a cake that was approximately the same size as my soon-to-be 1 year old daughter.  I'd been through 3 old freezer bags from the bottom drawer (don't worry people, they were out of a box, never been used).  I was onto a bulk-bin bag, turned inside out.  I was pushing this down into the end of the icing nozzle with a chopstick.  High-tech right there.  I should have realised that a 20 min trip to the shop on the morning of the party would pay dividends in time saved icing THE CAKE with equipment that worked.

And so we come to one of my major stumbling blocks in life - my "she'll be right" attitude, to use an antipodean expression.  Obviously, there are many positive things associated with being a person who tends to view life with such a laidback point of view.  I'm not saying I would rather be someone who didn't see life like this.  But there are definitely some downsides.  Generally, if you think "she'll be right", it will be, but there is the odd occasion where this isn't true at all.  You do actually need to help yourself a little along the way - Picasso didn't look at a blank canvas, say "She'll be right", go and drink an espresso and return to find 'Guernica' sitting there when he returned.  When icing THE CAKE, I just drank the espresso then, unsurprisingly found myself up butter icing creek without a paddle.

A creek of butter icing is only a mild exaggeration.  I wish we hadn't been in such a rush to get it done and get to the party, otherwise I would have encouraged a series of photos to capture the carnage.  I literally had icing from head to toe.  There was icing on the table, several chairs, the floor, the bench, in my hair, down my front, up my arms... you get the idea.  I had cramp from trying to squeeze icing out of the nozzle, not the myriad holes in the bulk bin bag.  The "swirls" that I was managing to apply onto the cake were so tragic and requiring so much physical effort it was comical.  Guests were due to arrive at 12pm and at 11:50 I was still desperately trying to get icing onto THE CAKE so it at least looked covered.  At 11:59 I threw on my party dress (yes, I had a party dress.  It was my party, remember?) and Mum and I nervously transported the cake to the car around 12:05.  I walked into the party, shoes squelching from the icing on my feet.  When I removed my shoes after the party, I had pink icing oozing between my toes from the mess I'd created hours earlier.  My mother, who is a little less "she'll be right" and a little more "how did I get a daughter who is so disorganised and why, at 31 years old, am I still trying to cover up her mess?", was in a panicked state for the rest of the afternoon and needed several cups of tea after the party to restore equilibrium.

What I'm trying to say, is that the appearance of 50s housewife calmness and a cake that impressively graduated shades of pink is just that - appearance.  In reality, I am the antithesis of goddess domesticity and the fact that there even manages to be an "appearance" is largely due to the wonderful people in my life who rush in to save me while I drink the espresso.  Rest assured, I have no plans to take Mick or anyone else.  Or I might have the plan but I'll need a bit of help with the follow through...


  1. oh but that cake....mwah! (you know the gesture i'm doing there right?!)

  2. oh and love the profile pic by the way - stylish anonymity

    1. I just wanted to show off my foxy calves

  3. Oh Charlotte! Love your Blog. I am an avid food blog reader, and since this crosses into both comedy and cake - fabulous! From a professional cake designers point of view (are you allowed to call yourself a professional?)I think you did a fabulous job and let me tell you how it looks on TV is not how it happens in most cake kitchens, instead it more often than not happens just as you describe, complete with the squelched icing underfoot! The right tools do make it easier but buttercream is still a bi@ch to work with! Lol congrats on the successful cake and blog!

  4. Thanks Sally! What you're saying is I should stay away from icing a humongous cake with butter cream icing if I intend to see any degree of success :o) I would love to see some of your creations. I'm sure you know how to do it without chopsticks and bulk bin bags and can make it look like the picture!!
    Hope the comedy & cake combo continues to entertain xo